The unsung samaritans

Recently I visited Kuala Lumpur on a conducted tour with a group. Traversing its various sight-seeing locations one could not miss the beautifully-maintained wide roads with streams of vehicles moving fast and in an orderly manner, strictly following the lane and signal disciplines. Amazingly, we did not see a single policeman controlling the traffic or guiding anyone crossing the roads. Our Malaysian guide explained with justifiable pride that “in my charming country, police step in only when there is trouble. They are helpful friends to the righteous and equally formidable foes to the law-breakers!”

Someone in our group made a flippant remark at this juncture that in India things are quite different. Though it was made in bad taste, at a wrong place and at a wrong time, this feeling is unfortunately present for various complex reasons.

Come to think of this, many of us do not realise that the sphere of activity of the police is basically different from that of all other professions. The very process of dealing with all kinds of hostile and unscrupulous enemies of the society (plus our own lack of civic sense) is enough to present the image of police in an adverse light! People in public service are as fallible as the rest of others and tarnishing this sector in isolation is certainly irrational.

My own experience with this clan is worth the mention: Long ago I was taking my reluctant six-year old son to his school by car not heeding his tantrums against attending the school that day. As we were passing in front of the local police station he suddenly raised his voice and waving his hands frantically started crying — “Help! Police! Bachao!” Before I could realise the gravity of his mischievous pranks, a police jeep soon overtook my vehicle signalling me to stop! I had a tough time convincing the officers that I was not kidnapping my own child, while appreciating their alacrity at the same time.

Deciding to settle down in Bangalore after my retirement in 1992, I was approaching the outskirts of the city with my family by car, closely followed by a truck carrying our belongings. We were abruptly stopped by the police who explained to us that the highway ahead had been completely blocked by violent agitators of Cauvery water dispute holding up a good number of vehicles for hours. It was well past midnight and when I nostalgically explained to the inspector that I was returning to my home town after a long service outside the state, he was so touched that he not only escorted our vehicles up to Mekri circle but also sent further wireless message to ensure safe passage to our destination, clearly displaying his natural softness beneath the tough uniform!

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